Keeping Kids Out Of School: How Mumps is Affecting South African’s Children

Children At Risk In South Africa

Mumps is a highly contagious virus that can be prevented with a simple vaccination in childhood. However, many vaccinations have been missed by South African babies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and an estimated 25 million children in poorer countries like Zimbabwe have missed some or all of their childhood vaccinations, according to the WHO (2022). In addition to the growing anti-vaccination movement, many children are now at risk for this potentially deadly disease.

A study, by Sikhosana et al., (2020) done in South Africa, from 2012 to 2017, found that mumps infections were most common in spring and affected mainly boys and children under 10 years old. The infections in this study were confirmed through laboratory testing.

The study also found that fewer tests were done in public healthcare facilities compared to private ones. These differences in testing may have led to fewer cases of mumps being reported in South Africa (Sikhosana et al., 2020).

Mumps is not a disease that health authorities in South Africa are required to report, which makes it difficult to know how many people are affected by the disease (Sikhosana et al., 2020). Because of this, there is very little information available about how many cases of mumps occur in South Africa each year (Sikhosana et al., 2020).

A study conducted between 1999 and 2018 found that only two countries in Southern Africa (Eswatini and Zambia) frequently report mumps cases, and South Africa only reported 24 cases in 2002 (Sikhosana et al., 2020). This means that we don’t actually know how many people are infected with mumps in our country.

What Is Mumps?

Mumps is a contagious viral infection caused by the ‘rubula’ or mumps virus (NICD, 2019). It’s well known for the swelling affect it causes to people’s faces when they are infected (NICD, 2019).

How Can You Catch Mumps

Mumps is spread through contact with saliva or mucus droplets from an infected person (NICD, 2019). These droplets can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or talking (NICD, 2019).

Mumps can also be indirectly spread when someone with the virus touches an object or surface without washing their hands, and another person subsequently touches the contaminated surface and then touches their mouth or nose (NICD, 2019).

Mumps can also be indirectly spread when someone with the virus touches an object or surface without washing their hands, and another person subsequently touches the contaminated surface and then touches their mouth or nose (NICD, 2019).

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The Symptoms Of Mumps

✔ Mumps symptoms usually start up to 16 – 18 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus.

✔ Symptoms usually start with a headache, malaise (weakness and fatigue) and a fever

✔ About a day later, the typical and characteristic swelling of the (salivary) glands generally happens.

This swelling of the glands is called parotitis. Parotitis happens in between 31 – 65% of people infected with the mumps virus.

Complications From Mumps

✔ In up to 15% of cases, people infected with mumps can catch meningitis

✔ Orchitis (inflammation of the testes)

✔ And deafness in one per 20,000 reported cases of mumps

It is very rare, but mumps can cause serious complications like:

✔ Inflammation of the brain (meningo-encephalitis),

✔ Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis),

✔ Inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis),

✔ & joint pain and swelling.

Top 4 Reasons To Get A Mumps Test

If you experience these symptoms or have been exposed to someone with mumps, it’s important to get tested. Here are the top four reasons to get a mumps test:

1. You have symptoms: If you’re experiencing symptoms such as fever, headache, and swollen glands, it’s important to get tested for mumps to determine if you have the infection.

2. You’ve been exposed: If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has mumps, you should get tested to see if you’ve been infected. Mumps is highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person.

3. You work in a high-risk setting: Such as a school, daycare, or healthcare facility, you may be at increased risk for mumps. Getting tested can help prevent the spread of the infection to children and people with low immune systems.

4. You’re planning to travel: Mumps is more common in certain parts of the world. If you’re planning to travel to an area where mumps is common, getting tested before you go can help ensure that you’re protected against the infection.

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